Space Encounters

What it takes to make a house your home

Make sure it’s a fit. The designer–client relationship is an intimate one—and one that could last weeks or months. Lee suggests checking if a designer is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (www.asid.org), as well as asking for references not only about design outcomes, but everything from manner to time management. “I’m a realistic designer,” she offers. “I believe in telling people the truth. Design can sometimes be a ripple effect. When you remove one thing, you find something else, especially in an existing home. I allow enough time—because of my experience to know what the outcome might be. I’ve never given a completion date that I haven’t met. Sometimes clients don’t want to hear that it will take that long and they will push you, but you must stay firm.”

Create a budget. Not everyone knows exactly what they want to spend, explains Lee, but designers can help create one during the consultation stage. “Any budget can be manipulated,” she says. “We can suggest substitutions that will satisfy your pocket.” Expect to pay a retainer fee of roughly 20% of the total costs at the time of contracting before any work has begun, says Lee. There are usually two options for payment: hourly or a set fee. Hourly rates can start at $150 per hour. But even set fees are usually what a designer averages as an hourly rate per room. “A room takes a minimum of 20 hours from concept to shopping and execution. Depending on the size, one room can average between $3,500 and $4,500.” Lee offers discounts for multiple rooms, but as in all business exchanges, she says, “Everything is negotiable.”

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